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    Anti-fertility "vaccines": a plea for an open debate on the prospects of research.

    Richter J


    The director of the World Health Organization (WHO) Human Reproduction Programme (HRP) responded to a call for stopping research on antifertility vaccines, saying that his department was developing vaccines to provide a wider choice of contraceptives and that in the first trial with HRP's prototype immune contraceptive, a high level of efficacy was obtained, no adverse side effects were observed, and the vaccine was well accepted by the clinical trial volunteers. He claims the authors of the call have used alarmist speculation and technical and scientific distortions to support their opposition to the development of this new technology. Judith Richter reports the above response and then responds in return to Antifertility Vaccines: Current Status and Implication for Family Planning Programmes. HRP's aim is to develop antifertility vaccines with a duration of 12-18 months following one single injection or oral administration for 98% of the users. HRP's immune contraceptive is still far from meeting this goal. It is doubtful whether safe reversible immunological contraceptive methods will be accessible to those women most at risk of contraceptive abuse, who depend on family planning programmes for birth control. The costs to ensure an overall coverage of reversal procedures are also suspect. Once developed, antifertility vaccines will be beyond social control. Their abuse potential alone is reason enough to ask for a stop of the research. The issue may be less one of increasing the range of available contraceptives, but one of improving the range of available contraceptives. Population control ideology should not guide the development of contraceptives. The aim must be to enable women to exert greater control over their fertility without sacrificing their integrity, health, and well being.
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